“The other boys got tired of him. I was ready to send him home.”
These candid words from a weary youth group leader describe a challenging young camper I’ll call “Manny”. . . before his life was changed this summer at Forest Home.
I think you know that fun softens the hearts of youth and adults. Teachable moments often happen after a day of fun and laughter. Manny’s story is just one example.
That is why I am so excited about the plans for a new waterslide at Lake Mears. It is one of the most exciting projects in the Dream Big Initiative … whose sole purpose is to proclaim the Good News for generations to come.
Manny came to high school camp this summer with more than 50 other teenagers. I want you to hear from Manny’s youth group leader, Josh. I’ve changed both their names to protect Manny’s privacy . . .
Manny was a challenge for us each week at youth group, so I knew that being with him for a whole week at camp would be very difficult.
As we were getting on the bus to come to Forest Home, Manny’s mom pulled me aside. She told me that he had been kicked out of every camp or overnight program he had ever attended and that I should call her when (not if) his behavior got so bad that he should be sent home. She was realistic about his chances of lasting a whole week and was prepared to come and pick him up.
As soon as we arrived at camp Manny started to behave poorly. As the week went on, he got worse. Every day there was another incident.
These relentless issues drained me spiritually and emotionally. The other boys got tired of him. I was ready to send him home. But the Forest Home staff reached out and supported Manny and me.
By God’s grace, the staff, students, and I were able to show love and kindness (along with firm boundaries) to Manny over and over and over again.
During the week, his attitude slowly changed as the other students and adults at camp walked through his difficulties with him. Manny saw examples of grace and forgiveness that he hadn’t seen before.
Manny is a high school freshman who lives with his mom and her new wife. His mom is wrapped up in her new relationship and there isn’t much time or attention left for Manny. There is often marijuana present when I drop him off or pick him up for youth group.
Although we haven’t affirmed her lifestyle, we have loved Manny’s mom and her son. She feels very comfortable with us even though she knows what we believe, and now, what Manny believes.
As a result of his time at camp, Manny gained a new sense of what personal faith and belief mean. He saw older students reading God’s Word and worshipping. And now he is forming his own convictions centered on Christ.
We finally made it to the last day of camp. The morning we were packing to go home, Manny started sobbing. He didn’t want to leave.
Our speaker for the week was sitting on the steps close by and Manny went over and sat with him for a while. They talked. The speaker put his arm around Manny. Then the speaker opened his Bible and he and Manny read for a while and then prayed together. The staff and I watched from a distance and we were all in tears.
As he got on the bus, Manny told me he was sorry for messing up and causing so much trouble that week. I told him I had forgiven him even before it had all happened.
Manny still faces more than the usual challenges that teenage boys run into—his mom’s marriage, drugs in his home, and bouncing around from relative to relative. But, in a new way, Manny knows that God and His people care for him and that comforts him.
Was it worth the time and energy we put into Manny’s life? Absolutely! Everyone involved that week agrees. Manny has noticed a change in his own behavior since camp. So has his mom.
Will you pray with me for Manny? Will you ask the Lord to assure Manny of His presence, for the courage to grow up in a tough situation, and for His protection from unsettling circumstances?
What does this have to do with a new waterslide? Everything!
Manny had fun at camp. And fun softened his heart. His youth group leader saw how the activities and games helped Manny make friends and bond with his leaders and counselors. When Manny cried and hugged the staff on the last day, it was a picture of how God used the fun and fellowship in his life.
That’s why I am so excited to give you a chance to help with the new waterslide—to help make camp even more fun . . . to help soften more hearts.
The Lake has been without a waterslide for three years, but plans are underway to change that. A new waterslide is on the way!!
Significant new projects at Forest Home—like the waterslide—have always been made possible by friends like you. Friends who love how a place like Forest Home is helping campers like Manny understand the Good News.
I’m taking a bold step and asking if you will consider a generous gift to help build the new waterslide . . . but, more importantly, to help vulnerable kids like Manny hear and respond to God’s love.
Here is the bottom line.
The new waterslide will cost $382,000, and construction will start as soon as the funding is available. And since many have given already, only $133,000 remains.
Will you ask the Lord how you might take part in building this new waterslide?
Many gifts of all sizes will be necessary to prepare the lake and move forward with the construction. Your reply by December 31 will give us the best chance of completing it in time for camp next summer and make a difference in the lives of campers like Manny.
Thank you for considering this unique opportunity.